Let’s assume for a moment that you’ve got some time before you’ll be giving a speech, and it’s already written. That’s a lot to assume, I know, because this is only the fifth day of this series, but stick with me. It will all become clearer as time goes on.
Obviously, the following tips are very general in nature, because every speech is different and therefore, every speech requires a different preparation. But, generally, here is what you need to do to prepare well for an upcoming speech:
- Brain Dump: Whether you actually wrote the speech yourself or not, there’s bound to be volumes of information floating around in your brain regarding the subject of your speech. This fact can either help you or hurt you, depending on how you handle it. To harness the power of this pile of potentially powerful information, you must take some time before your speech to just sit down and think about it. Not, practicing the speech, that’s not what I mean. I mean just sitting down, preferably with pencil or keyboard in hand, jotting down every stray item that’s floating around your brain regarding your subject. Why is this important? Because if you leave all that clutter in there, it’s going to be dying to get out while you’re speaking. Interrupting your train of thought, throwing random words in the way of what you’re trying to get across. Bad news. Plus, if you get it all out there where you can see it, you might just find a few real gems that will fit in perfectly during your speech! Bonus!
- Picture Your Optimum Audience Member: Remember that the audience is not this THING, like a huge amoeba just sitting out there pulsing and vibrating and occasionally yawning or walking out to the rest rooms. The audience is a group of individuals, each of which is going to be listening to you with various levels of interest and enthusiasm. They can only be controlled to a certain extent, and to a large degree you’re putting yourself in their hands. So, when you’re preparing, picture that perfect audience member, whomever it may be. One, totally enthused and enthralled person who is hanging on your every word. Now, imagine you’re in their living room, sitting on their couch, with a cup of tea (or coffee, if you’re tired right now,) in your hand, just conversing. Can you see it? Now, the big question is, how do you speak to this person? That’s how you want to prepare to speak to everyone.
- Embrace Your Nerves: If you weren’t nervous at all, you’d have reason to be nervous. While you’re preparing, especially as the speech draws closer, it’s only natural to start getting some butterflies. But if you prepare with the idea of harnessing the power of those nerves and turning it into energy that will be infused into your speech, you’ll actually start to look forward to that butterfly feeling. It’s a sign that your whole body is getting geared up to give this speech your absolute best. I’ve never managed to “get into the zone” without that butterfly feeling being present and accounted for.
- Don’t Under-Prepare: I don’t want to generalize this too horribly, because I know how it sounds. It’s ridiculously simplistic to say that, if you want to do well giving a speech, you need to be prepared. So, you need to do as much preparation as is necessary to allow you to do well. But, (and I say this with all sincerity,)…
- Don’t Over-Prepare, Either: I’ve found that most people, when facing this “worst of all fears” tend to attack preparation like they’re Rocky getting ready to take on the huge Russian! They go crazy with their preparations and they practice the speech over and over and over again until they’re absolutely burnt out on it. And when it finally comes time to give it, one of two things happens: they suck, or they’re too good. And neither one is really any good at all. If you’re over-prepared, and you suck, the speech comes out all muddled because basically your brain is so fried on the topic, it can’t keep one main point straight, let alone five or six, and it has no idea anymore where the introduction ends or the conclusion begins. If you’re over-prepared, and you’re too darn good, the speech comes out just a step above this. Robotic, dull, boring as heck.
Now, we both realize there’s a lot more involved in preparing well for a speech, but if you take some time to really think about the above points, you’ll probably find that they cover the mental conditioning you need to do to prepare well. The rest is just practice. Smart practice, of course, and we’ll hit that in a later article.
For now, get your head on straight. The rest will follow.
This is just one in an ongoing series entitled Public Speaking University. It’s a course in how to write, prepare and deliver speeches that will knock your audience’s socks off! If you’ve missed any so far, check them all out here! I’d love to know what you think, so comment away and tell me what you want to hear!